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OU Professor Discusses Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Weather Forecasting

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Amy McGovern, Ph.D., stands in front of the Science on a Sphere installation at the National Weather Center.

OU Professor Leads National Discussion on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Weather Forecasting


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Date

May 22, 2024

Media Contact

Jonathan Kyncl
(405) 325-1855
jkyncl@ou.edu


Amy McGovern, a professor in the University of Oklahoma’s School of Meteorology and School of Computer Science and the director of the NSF AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate and Coastal Oceanography (AI2ES) at OU, co-organized the session Enabling US Leadership in Artificial Intelligence for Weather during the National Academies Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate on May 13, 2024.

Read on for a Q&A with McGovern on this important topic.

What advancements have been made to weather forecasting due to the introduction of AI?

McGovern: Forecasting is really being revolutionized by AI. This is true across many fields of science right now with AI! I have been working in AI for weather for almost 20 years, and the last few years, AI has really taken off in what it can do. The recent AI forecasting models at the global scale were introduced by private companies and demonstrated quite quickly that they could beat the state-of-the-art physics-based models at some of the forecasting tasks. They are not beating them at all tasks yet and definitely not at all scales of forecasting, but they are showing tremendous promise.  

What could these advancements mean for the future of weather forecasting?

McGovern: It is clear that the future of weather forecasting involves AI What does that mean for the forecaster? It means that AI provides another model for them to evaluate risks and help communicate to the public the potential for high-impact weather. What does that mean for the consumer? It means that soon we will be able to have individualized forecasts, helping people to understand the impact of specific forecasts on their lives. This idea of a personalized forecast isn’t new, but AI is enabling it to become a reality sooner, rather than later.

What were the goals of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate spring meeting?

McGovern: The goals were to help understand what the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (as part of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) could do to help facilitate U.S. leadership in AI for weather. Right now, other countries are racing ahead on AI for weather, and we want to help the U.S. maintain a leadership position.

If there is one thing the public should know on this topic, what would it be?

McGovern: AI is going to fundamentally transform weather forecasting to be more accurate and personalized.

How is the University of Oklahoma at the forefront of this research?

McGovern: I direct the NSF AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate and Coastal Oceanography (AI2ES). This is a $20M investment from NSF on AI for weather and OU is the lead institute. We are truly at the forefront of research on creating trustworthy AI for weather for a wide variety of applications, including severe weather.

McGovern: AI2ES is also creating online education resources to help more people understand AI and AI for weather, which will be critical as the workforce changes and adapts to the new uses of AI.

Editor’s note: content was edited for length and clarity

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. As the state’s flagship university, OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. OU was named the state’s highest-ranking university in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent Best Colleges list. For more information about the university, visit ou.edu.


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